Microsoft Inks Deal With OpenAI for Exclusive GPT-3 License

Microsoft struck a deal with AI startup OpenAI to be the exclusive licensee of language comprehension model GPT-3. According to Microsoft EVP Kevin Scott, the deal is an “incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology.” Among potential uses are “aiding human creativity and ingenuity in areas like writing and composition, describing and summarizing large blocks of long-form data (including code), converting natural language to another language.” Continue reading Microsoft Inks Deal With OpenAI for Exclusive GPT-3 License

Facebook Oversight Board Announces New Member Names

Facebook released the names of the members of its new Oversight Board, which has the power to overrule company chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. Law professor Kate Klonick dubs it a “historic moment,” and “the first time a private transnational company had voluntarily assigned a part of its policies to an external body like this.” Facebook’s four co-chairs spent much of 2020 choosing the other 16 members. They and Facebook will choose another 20, but from then on, the members will be selected without Facebook input. Continue reading Facebook Oversight Board Announces New Member Names

Online Shopping Spikes, Amazon Hires 100,000 New Workers

As the coronavirus fuels a rise in online sales, Amazon plans to hire 100,000 more workers and raise pay for all employees in the U.S. and Canada by $2 an hour. The company’s starting wage is currently $15 per hour in its U.S. fulfillment centers. In the U.K., wages will rise £2 ($2.45) per hour and approximately €2 ($2.24) an hour in many European Union countries. At end of 2019, Amazon employed almost 800,000 full-time and part-time workers. Other companies are also seeing increased online sales as a result of COVID-19. Continue reading Online Shopping Spikes, Amazon Hires 100,000 New Workers

FTC Reportedly Considering an Injunction Against Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission is contemplating a preliminary injunction against Facebook over antitrust issues related to its integration of apps and whether they work with competitors. The injunction could prevent Facebook from further integrating apps, and possibly reverse past integration as a step to breaking up the company. An injunction would require a majority vote of the five-member FTC. Prominent antitrust experts have presented a plan to separate Facebook from recent acquisitions Instagram and WhatsApp. Continue reading FTC Reportedly Considering an Injunction Against Facebook

FTC Targets Anti-Competitive Violations, Fake Amazon Posts

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will create a task force to take a broad look at potential antitrust violations in the tech industry, including re-examining already-approved mergers — possibly undoing deals deemed to have an anti-competitive impact today. At the same time, the FTC brought its first case against using fake ads to sell online products, settling with the New York City-based Cure Encapsulations and its owner for paying for fake ads about a weight loss product to be posted as Amazon reviews. Continue reading FTC Targets Anti-Competitive Violations, Fake Amazon Posts

New York Settles with Devumi, Purveyor of Social Media Bots

The state of New York reached a settlement, announced attorney general Letitia James, with Devumi, a company that sold fake followers on Twitter and other social media platforms. Her investigation was prompted by a New York Times report about how the then-Florida-based Devumi raked in millions of dollars selling social media bots to at least 200,000 customers, among them businesses, politicians, reality TV stars, professional athletes, comedians, models and pornographic actors in New York and other states. Continue reading New York Settles with Devumi, Purveyor of Social Media Bots

Senate Releases Reports with Details of Russian Interference

The Senate Intelligence Committee released two reports that reveal how Russia’s Internet Research Agency targeted groups including African-Americans, evangelical Christians and pro-gun activists to confuse voters, create division and support Donald Trump’s run for president. The Russian operation reportedly used every digital platform available, including Facebook, Instagram, Vine, LiveJournal and even “Pokémon Go.” The research also revealed how these same digital platforms delayed reporting the extent and type of interference. Continue reading Senate Releases Reports with Details of Russian Interference

Two Groups Vie to Form NCAA-Like Organization for eSports

ESports is booming on college campuses; 40 colleges created “varsity” eSports programs, with full-time coaches and staff members, official arenas, player recruitment and eSports scholarships. The NCAA, the main organizing body for collegiate sports, is still mulling over whether eSports is a fit for its qualifications as a sport, even as the Big Ten, the Pacific-12 and colleges begin to look more favorably on accepting it as an athletic endeavor. Meanwhile, grassroots groups are working to create an NCAA-like organization. Continue reading Two Groups Vie to Form NCAA-Like Organization for eSports

Meta AR Headset May Help Reimagine the Traditional Office

San Francisco-based startup Meta makes augmented reality headsets that its founder/chief executive Meron Gribetz wants to use to remake the traditional office. With his headset, the user can use a virtual floating screen to control 3D models, browse web pages, write code and send emails. Gribetz — who studied neuroscience and computer science at Columbia University — is now using his own employees to test the headset and its software to figure out how to improve it, an experiment described in a Bloomberg News “Decrypted” podcast. Continue reading Meta AR Headset May Help Reimagine the Traditional Office

Facebook Now Favors Friends Over Publishers in News Feed

Facebook is again changing its News Feed algorithm, this time to favor postings by the users’ family and friends over those from publishers. The result will be that postings, including links, videos and photos, from publishers of all sizes will appear less prominently in users’ News Feeds. That means that The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, Vox Media, Vice and others will get less traffic than they have become accustomed to receiving. More than 1.65 billion users per month view Facebook’s News Feed feature. Continue reading Facebook Now Favors Friends Over Publishers in News Feed

Study Shows Restricting Field of View Alleviates VR Sickness

For some users, virtual reality creates motion sickness, with the result that they either avoid VR completely or limit their time with VR experiences. Now, two engineering professors at Columbia University say that they’ve come up with a solution to VR sickness that can be easily applied to the current array of consumer VR headsets, including Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Sony PlayStation VR and Google Cardboard. The solution is simply a matter of dynamically changing — sometimes quite subtly — the field of view (FOV). Continue reading Study Shows Restricting Field of View Alleviates VR Sickness

Dropbox Hires Computer Vision Experts to Mine Photographs

Dropbox wants to add image recognition software to its cloud storage service so that photos would automatically be tagged with the objects, people, and places found in the images. The company has hired the co-founders of Kriegman-Belhumeur Vision Technology, Peter Belhumeur and David Kriegman, to engineer the new technology. The two men are university professors with extensive experience in computer vision, facial recognition, and machine learning. Continue reading Dropbox Hires Computer Vision Experts to Mine Photographs

Transparency for the Web: XRay Tracks Use of Personal Data

In a step toward protecting the personal data of online users, researchers at Columbia University have created new software called XRay that can observe and predict how tech companies are using the personal data that they collect. The software is based on research related to Google’s Gmail ads, Amazon recommendations, and YouTube recommendations. XRay, which will help privacy-concerned watchdogs track how personal data is used, is still in development. Continue reading Transparency for the Web: XRay Tracks Use of Personal Data

Next-Gen Music Retrieval: Free Million-Song Dataset Released by Echo Nest

  • The Million Song Dataset has been released for free by The Echo Nest music application company to facilitate research into music recommendation engines. The dataset consists of audio features and metadata (but not the actual music) for a million popular music tracks.
  • Ars Technica reports that the dataset is a “freely-available collection of audio features and metadata for a million contemporary popular music tracks,” being analyzed by Columbia University’s Laboratory for the Recognition and Organization of Speech and Audio.
  • Currently, services like Pandora make use of musicologists to catalog the characteristics of songs. Researchers are looking at methods for computers to analyze songs in order to make recommendations based on your preferences. The dataset could potentially be used to develop a new generation of Music Information Retrieval services.
  • The National Science Foundation is also conducting The Listening Machine Project which is focused on analyzing “the individual sources present in a real-world sound recording,” which could lead to improved perception for robots, new prosthetic devices for hearing impaired and “a wide range of novel applications in content-based multimedia indexing,” explained LMP’s Dan Ellis, associate professor of Electrical Engineering at Columbia.